The Destruction of Wonder

imageI’m still reading a book a day. I’m a bit behind, but I’ll catch up. I’ve re-read most of the Narnia series and am about halfway through the Oz series.

I also finished The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia. I was enraptured by this critical book at first; Laura Miller felt and understood and expressed all the love I’d had for Narnia, as a child.

…I’m wishing, with every bit of my self, for two things. First, I want a place I’ve read about in a book to really exist, and second, I want to be able to go there. I want this so much I’m pretty sure the misery of not getting it will kill me. For the rest of my life, I will never want anything quite so much again.

She also describes the betrayal I felt when someone suggested they had Christian symbolism and messages. I got over that, but upon reading the Narnia books in my thirties, I was stunned at his attitudes toward females and offended by his racism.

Laura Miller managed to keep her love for Narnia intact. My love for Narnia is still there, but it’s damaged. I see C.S. Lewis mucking in his world, and frankly, he should’ve stayed out of it.

The Oz books fared no better. The writing in the first was unbearable; in the second, annoying. By the fourth or fifth, it improved dramatically, so I can forgive that.

What I can’t forgive is the endless, unrelenting political satire and commentary in the Oz books. It ruined all the fun!

What is hilarious to me is that there has been some debate as to whether or not Baum did this purposely or at all. In fact, some even get quite aggressive in their idea that any politics in the Oz books are in the eye of the beholder.

Um, no. Uh, sorry, but you’re Just. Plain. Wrong.

image There is no question at all that these books are riddled with political satire and commentary. Take The Marvelous Land of Oz. First he parodies the fears of those against the suffrage movement by having an army of girls march on Oz. They quickly win, because the men are so afraid of girls. Then they order the men to cook and watch the kids all the time. He redeems himself by making the next ruler of Oz a girl, but even that was just plain weird; he’d grown up as a boy, magically done so he would be safe.

Guess what? Baum was the secretary for the South Dakota suffrage organization. 

No politics? Really? I could give example after example. Rarely does even a page go by without some satire or commentary. And Baum was… an interesting man. He was known to give a speech at a Republican rally, and the next day, deliver the same speech at a Democratic one.

As an adult reading these, the political satire might have been interesting if I felt like doing a bit of research on the political landscape of his day, but I didn’t. It was irritating and intrusive.

I suppose the Oz series was written like some children’s movies, where they have inside jokes intended for only the adults to understand. (I hate that, also; inside jokes strike me as rude to those you know won’t understand them.)

For both series, I wanted to recapture the love and wonder I had felt for these worlds when I was young; instead, reading them was the destruction of it.

Part of why I’m reading so much this year is that I want books to be gateway into another world, again. I read too analytically. I want to love reading every bit as much as I did when I was young. I suppose that’s why I’ve chosen so many children’s books to start out my challenge.

I’m still searching for the feeling of wonder.

Any suggestions? Have you read any books lately that have swept you off your feet with a feeling of wonder and magic? Swept you into a whole new world?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Book-A-Day Reading Challenge | Tags: , ,

From Russia With Irving

image Time changes a story. I first read John Irving in college. I’m not sure how I discovered him or why I fell in love, but I did. Lately, I’ve been revisiting his works.

It’s funny how different they are. Part of it is age. Another part of it is that I first read Irving as someone who never imagined she would write; now I read Irving as someone who’s written. Before I enjoyed the story and the characters, and now I’m still enjoying the story and the characters, but I can see the craft, too.

Below is one of the best interviews I’ve seen with John Irving. He talks about his life, how he writes, and his stories.

What stories have changed for you, upon re-reading years later? Are you a re-reader? Do you have a favorite novelist?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing | Tags: , ,

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